Pakistan Red Crescent responds to flash floods in Chitral

Monsoon rains in Pakistan coupled with glacial melting and flash floods have claimed nine lives and affected over 322,000 people in the provinces of Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Gilgit Baltistan and Baluchistan, causing urban flooding in the major cities of Lahore, Rawalpindi and Islamabad.

Chitral District in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province has been the worst affected. Flash floods caused by heavy rains and a glacial outburst have washed away over 28 villages while disrupting access to roads and bridges and causing damage to property, agricultural crops, communication infrastructure and drinking water supply systems. The rains in Baluchistan Province have caused breaches in protective embankments known as bunds.

The River Indus that runs through most parts of Pakistan has already affected low lying areas in Punjab Province where the authorities issued timely early warnings to the affected communities to evacuate.

The Pakistan Red Crescent Society (PRCS) has distributed tents, blankets, tarpaulin sheets, kitchen sets, hygiene kits, mosquito nets, stoves and jerry cans to 93 families in Chitral District whose houses have been fully damaged. They have either been staying with relatives or taking shelter in partially damaged school buildings or under the open sky.

For many years the Red Crescent district branch in Chitral has been active in training community volunteers and is already linked up with several community based organisations in the affected areas. The branch already had pre-positioned stock of essential non-food items for almost 300 families and will continue with its emergency response activities as soon as other affected areas become accessible after roads are restored.

“The situation is bad. People are without sufficient food in many areas, as markets have no stocks and many of the shops have been washed away. The floods started a day before the Eid celebrations,” said Ghafoor Ahmed, Disaster Management Officer at the Pakistan Red Crescent’s Chitral branch, after returning back from a relief distribution site.

Due to lack of access to the affected areas in Chitral, the risk of food shortage in remote valleys and other affected areas is considerable. So far, the most essential needs include food, emergency health services, safe drinking water and emergency shelter. The next few days are critical for the affected provinces along with Sindh and the State of Azad Jammu and Kashmir where preparations to manage the increased water levels are needed due to the risk of flash flooding in local waterways.

Red Crescent teams are in the process of conducting rapid assessment of the affected areas in the provinces of Punjab and Gilgit Baltistan, in coordination with local authorities, while trained disaster response team members and volunteers in Sindh and Baluchistan are on standby and closely monitoring the situation. The Pakistan Red Crescent headquarters in Islamabad is working in close coordination with the National Disaster Management Authority to ensure a timely response. Meetings have been held in the last few weeks with its provincial branches and the in-country Red Cross Red Crescent Movement partners to prepare for the monsoon season.